From January 2014

Hey, I Need You

by Claire Lukens

I recently went through a breakup. That phrase feels apt, went through a breakup, even though I initiated it – as if it was something that was done to me, an ordeal to be endured. Something from which I emerge on the other side.

The end of the relationship had been a long time coming. Then, finally, we had a weekend in which we connected hardly at all, tiptoeing around what neither of us wanted to be the first to say, and which left me feeling unwanted. There’s no way around it. Unwanted–the thing that I could not endure or explain away, the thing that left me feeling broken.

So we had perhaps the easiest breakup conversation I have ever had. He expressed fear at losing some of our mutual friends, of hurt propagating through our social circle in this tiny town. But I am not worried about that. I am not hurt by any wrongdoing, on his part or mine, only by the fact that we simply didn’t have the passion necessary to carry us through hard times.

I am relieved not to feel stuck, to know that I was missing something but lacking the guts to go look for it. (Cue the cheesy quote: Life’s too short to waste it with people that don’t make you happy.) But I am also left with a hole, a place where comfort and acceptance could be found. I am spending more time alone at home, drinking wine with my dog cuddled up against me.

And, perhaps because I am an introvert, my first instinct to feeling lonely – to feeling wounded, undervalued, unwanted – is to hole up in myself, to find a safe place to curl up, where I don’t need anyone else to make me feel okay. Recognizing that I really need some support, I call a friend and leave a voicemail. Hey, just calling to tell you that I love you and say hi . . . gimme a call when you get a chance. . . . I don’t want to impose my sadness on my friends, so I don’t tell them I need them until they call back several days later and I erupt into tears. So I’m working on reaching out when I need support, asking for hugs and tea and hangout time. Leaving voicemails that say, Hey, I need you. Recognizing that my introverted tendencies do not exempt me from needing to feel wanted, worthy, loved.

I am also coming to terms with the rising fear that comes with dating in your 30s, the little voice that says “If I give up on this guy, am I giving up my chance to have kids?” Part of me knows that this is ridiculous, that I have time, that I have options.

That I need to be in love with the father of my children. And not just comfortable love, but whole-body-and-soul love, with-my-entire-being love. It’s easy to wonder if that love is out there for me, if I have missed my shot somewhere along the way.

I expressed this thought to one of my besties recently, and she looked at me dumb-founded. She reminded me of my own words to her a few months earlier, when she was feeling similarly alone. I had told her how, in the core of my being, I knew that she had a big love out there waiting for her. And it’s true, I do – she’s a truly amazing woman, and there’s simply no question in my mind that she’ll make someone over-the-moon grateful to be with her.

“You know that feeling, that confidence?” she told me. “I feel exactly the same way about you.”

I don’t know why it’s so hard to hold that confidence for myself. But it’s easier knowing that she’s holding it for me.

It Was U

By Anonymous

It was…

more than a year after our devastating, drawn-out breakup. More than a year and a half from the time he had said, “I think we should take a break,” the words that began the slow, painful unraveling of our tumultuous relationship. Nine months or so into a much healthier, productive, loving relationship with a gentle man who would prove to love me unconditionally.

But my heart was still bruised.

Or maybe it was scarred. Or maybe it suffered from internal bleeding.

Either way, on this particular day, walking from the subway to teach a dance class, limping a bit because of a puzzling foot injury, I listened to this song yet again inside of my big, fat DJ headphones. It had been on repeat in my ears, each time bringing back the memory of him, of us. Something about the sentiment of the song, coupled with its ultra-sincere acapella intro, cut straight to my heart. I couldn’t turn it off.

Did I miss him? I didn’t know. Did I still love him? Probably. I wouldn’t ever stop loving him, but the same goes for any number of other men who I had loved and lost. But for some reason this song brings back all of the hurt, compiled into one 3-minute and 11-second rhythmic experience. I remember how terrible it felt to know he was never certain about his feelings for me. I remember how much I loved him, but how the whole relationship felt so uneven. I remember how cold he could be and how lonely I could feel next to him. I remember screaming and crying and begging him not to do this, not to leave me after 2 years, not to give up. These thoughts are always followed by regret that I didn’t see how I deserved better, how I spent so much time hoping things would improve, how I was never truly happy.

So there I am, limping with a throbbing pain in my left foot and the left side of my chest cavity, avoiding eye contact with everyone on the street because I’m certain if I catch anyone’s eye, I will cry. I open the door to the studio where I was to teach that afternoon and hobble in. Two of my co-workers notice the obvious irregularity in my walk and are immediately concerned, as those in physical professions are. M can see the hurt in my eyes and assumes it’s worry about my foot, my body. We’re always worried an injury could be the end of our career.

She embraces me with a giant, sincere hug, and I break down sobbing on her shoulder.

“It hurts,” I say.

“I know,” she says. “It’s scary.”

Love Poem to a Broken Body

by a beautiful, amazing woman who wishes to remain anonymous

A Love Poem

Tonight I do not remain standing. I cannot. Darkness now and I hear the train from my bedroom. It never stops, this train. I count whistles to distract from the throbbing-sawing in my head, the nausea, the exhaustion for hours and days. I’ve lost track.

Chronic migraines. The doctors have a sterile two-word name for my ailment. Three years ago they arrived. Light became too bright and burning. Sounds too loud. Pain and lab tests and pills on a swollen tongue. My nightmares feature hospital beds and bleach.

I kneel by my bed. I drop like a believer to the hardwood floor. A body can’t hold everything up, all this skin and bone and broken head.

I am solitary and bent. I wonder what will step into my body, who is this future guest if not more Pain. Breathe into a cracked skull, into millions of shards that splinter and burrow. My hands and feet must fear my head.

I have slept 14 hours and wish my face was bloody so others could see. See me walk around covered and dripping, refusing gauze. I read cancer blogs because they are well-written and real and hairless and people know. I have thick curly hair. I am ashamed.

One, two, three whistles of the train. I will wait for the night to pass.

Someone is wailing. Someone is crouched on wood, frightened and small. My terrifying, aching lullaby to myself. I will give you all my love. I will give you everything. I will hold you until you sleep.

My love, my love. You break me.

 

A New Beginning

By Paige Pancratz

A new beginning. What is that really? I started dating an ex lover again this past summer after being apart for 13 years. We had dated in our 20s and I was her first love. It was a brief, strong connection but ultimately I broke her heart badly. Like really badly. We happened to work the same gardening gig this past spring and there was a certain way we could share honestly about what we had learned from our most recent “failed” relationships that made me wonder, “do we have similar values?” And then there was a certain way we always ended up laughing hysterically on our ladders while trimming vines. And then there was that smile at the end of that one day and the way my body responded. And then, of course, she rides a motorcycle and took me for a ride through Garden of the Gods and it was all over. A new beginning? Not yet.

We slept together and I was gratefully reminded that she is the best kisser of all time. Things felt good. We talked a couple days later about how we both just wanted to keep things casual, that the sex is good and that’s all we’re really interested in. Let’s have a fun relationship, we decided. Perfect. I thought briefly about that Sharon Olds poem, Sex Without Love, and then I walked home excited to be connected but not totally connected.

We kept hanging out and in the next few weeks it became apparent that we were “feeling more than we expected.” Let’s talk about our feelings. So, we did. And we agreed we were falling in love. Or there was a possibility of that. Let’s start showing more of ourselves, we decided.

Then, a few months later, we broke up. I was carrying a lot of guilt from the first time we were together 13 years ago. She still carried the hurt from 13 years ago that made it hard for her to trust me. There was a lot of performing going on to prove we were more mature and well-adjusted in the world after 13 years. And then there were all the belief systems we carry around in ourselves that got really loud and defensive when we started to let each other in. We were faced with meeting ourselves where we were and it got scary. This can’t work. I’m not ready. I don’t want to be seen fully. We’re broken. I’ll decide for you that you can’t love all of me. All the stuff. The old stuff.

And then things got interesting. Thank god. Because after years and years of therapy and energy work and yoga teacher training, I was more than a little discouraged to see the same sad trajectory of another “failed” relationship. And, the usual finish/start line to this old trajectory is I arrive at 1.) I believe I’m broken and can’t be loved, and 2.) I search for someone/something new to fill that hole in me that says I’m broken. But strangely, here’s where the new beginning showed up (don’t they always show up at a perceived end?). I recognized the fear and got curious. Am I really broken? Can I really not be loved?

They say a miracle is a change in perception. (I say “they” because I can’t remember who actually said that.) And I think that is all a new beginning is, a change in perception. But how does that happen? I think you need to get really curious and be really open to letting go. Letting go of attachments to what things should look like and just show up. As you are. We know this. It seems to be in Facebook quotes a million times a day. All the pop psychology and Ted talks speak to this. So after years of hearing this advice, I tried it. I don’t think this can happen with just anyone. But I think we do know when our gut says, “try it with this one.” And maybe that’s where I’ve arrived. I finally want to be seen. I wondered if we could meet each other in our messy, scary fear of the stories we make up about ourselves that have calcified over time and look like truth. She was brave and agreed to try. Oh, shit, I thought.

And that’s where we are now. We don’t define ourselves as together. I have no idea if that’s what this is about. We only hang out periodically. We decided to shelf the sex for now (this part is difficult, but seems necessary right now). All the scaffolding I had erected to support what I thought a relationship should look like is slowly falling away. It’s weird. We agreed to one rule: she’s not allowed to show up on her motorcycle. And a few simple intentions. Let’s create a safe space to be vulnerable and show up and see what happens. Let’s let go of liking or disliking what we hear and just allow each other to speak from our hearts. Let’s admit to what hurts or feels hard and help each other understand why. We have simple therapy 101 tools like communicating with the phrases “the story I’m making up about this is” and “what I hear you saying is.” The “what the fuck is going to happen?” and “will she love this part of me?” questions aren’t going away, but, damn, they get quiet during the truth telling/seeking/remembering/supporting. And, really, isn’t this all about “do I love this part of me?” and can I do that without the scaffolding of control and reassurance and guarantee of a certain outcome? A new beginning, indeed. Happy new year!

Editor’s note: We asked Paige to share her experiences as they resonated with the Break-Up Blog. We’re so grateful to be a part of her journey.

mourning_dove_20070801

Two Doves

By Jenny Williams

Five days we stayed at the small hotel on the lakeshore. The heat was a heavy coat we couldn’t peel, the shower a cool hand slipped beneath the collar. We stripped below the fan and sprawled across the floor: static bodies, moving air.

I wanted more and he, less; this was the line we walked, a revolving bridge that always turned us out on the same shore.

*

Four directions on the compass, a spinning needle. Whirl a globe and halt it with a finger; shoot an arrow at an atlas. Every “there” we’d been had traded places in my mind, a game of musical countries.

In India, we made love in the ocean and drank too much gin. In Kenya, we bought wedding bracelets made from melted bullets. In Guatemala, we lay on the wood floor of a small hotel, together. Alone.

I wanted to know: How could I show the course of love on a map? Where did we stray? Where did we converge? These were the questions of landscape that mattered; this was the topography of the heart.

*

Three years we were together. The month after we met, he brought me chocolate mints and performed numerical acrobatics with my name. We sprawled across the dewy grass at a concert and I said, So this is what it’s like to fall.

He said I’d grown more beautiful in the years since, but what he meant was, I am looking for reasons to love you again.

*

Two doves, building a nest in the rafters outside our room one morning at the small hotel on the lakeshore. I watched their meticulous partnership for hours. The male flitted from roof to lawn and back again. The female fussed and trimmed and pruned and cooed, content in her domestic world.

I tried to remember the last time I hung a picture on a wall.

*

One egg, speckled perfection. It appeared that evening, whole, miraculous. When I noticed them—dove, egg—she was sitting to one side of it, her tiny head cocked in astonishment, or revelation. The egg lay inches from the edge.

There was no nest. A full day’s work and nothing but a few tangled strands at the foot of the beam. Was it a flaw of the brush, a grass that wouldn’t gather? Or had the need to lay come too soon?

Muy peligroso, murmured a woman passing. Very dangerous.

I pulled him out of the room to look.

It’s sad, he said. But what can you do?

*

You watch. You sit. You hold vigil into the night, until the dark closes in. And at dawn when you find tiny pieces of eggshell on the floor and a glistening stickiness between, you honor the thing that almost was; you mourn the thing that never became; and you think: So this is what it’s like to fall.

 

Editor’s Note: We invited Jenny Williams to share a story inspired by the Break-Up Blog–we’re so grateful that she did. For more of Jenny’s beautiful writing and art visit www.jennydwilliams.com

lighthouse

Roadtrip #2: Hangover, Hot Tub & a Lighthouse

photo 1When you pulled onto the asphalt, leaving the farm, your friends, and 2013 behind, all you knew was that you needed to see the ocean one last time. You’d thought you’d just sit for a while, maybe do some writing before driving back home to your apartment and your bed and your laundry, but instead the Pacific had held you. You watched spouts from another pod of whales and decided to follow them south. The sun was bright and low and your car practically hummed every time you shifted, which was often, weaving down the 1.

As you considered distances and timing, weighing them against four hours of sleep and your flagging energy, a couple things started to become clear. First, short of a bathing suit, you had everything you needed to comfortably survive weeks away, and second, the further south you drove, getting closer and closer to home, the more you wanted the adventure to continue unfettered.

You stop for a pee and caffeine break in the lovely, one-block hippie outpost of Jenner where the only coffee shop serves an all-organic menu and where long-haired musicians entertain a lawn of tourists in Adirondack chairs overlooking the lagoon. As you sip your hot cocoa-chai topped with whipped cream, you contemplate the massage chair plunked in the middle of the side lawn. The sign says “Barbara’s Chair $1 per minute” and as you start walking towards your car, you turn back and approach the woman who must be Barbara, handing her a $5 dollar bill. You wind up staying for 15 minutes; however the last eight feel kind of like a trick as she goes on and on about Fukushima radiation and how you should stay out of the water as you head south. When you leave, you have an awkward moment where you hand the woman a $20 dollar bill, now bringing your total to $25 for 15 minutes of service, but she’s so caught up in telling you about some mineral you should be taking to counter the radiation that you decide not to mention it–you’d sound like such an asshole–and it’s only New Year’s once a year.

So you keep going, crossing the Golden Gate while you talk to your dad, who reports that your dog is fine, out chasing feral cats, and who becomes predictably excited about the prospect of you sleeping in a lighthouse–a hostel you’d begun to think about some time between Point Arena and Pt Reyes Station. You plan your route around a creamery with the best rotisserie chicken and cheese on the planet, but are disappointed to find the place closed when you pull in at sundown. Instead, hours later, you eat a bean burrito at Taco Bell and finish your Clif Bar, arriving at the lighthouse hostel in absolute darkness, dreaming of a soak in the hot tub they’re rumored to have.

You smile at the white-haired man who steps from the kitchen when you walk in, asking if you’re the one who’d called, and you say yes and ask him how he’s doing. “Tired,” he says as he checks you in and you chat, sympathizing, saying you’ve just driven from Mendocino. “Well, you’re the only one in your dorm,” he says, “so you should get some sleep,” and when you ask about the hot tub, he tells you that his boss won’t let anyone go in alone, but, he promises, if you find a buddy, he’ll let you both go for free.

You’re really not in the mood to talk to anyone. You’re exhausted, hungover, and have been driving for most of the day. But, you’ve come all this way, so you spend the next half hour writing in the common area, asking the couple, then the family and finally even the frowning foreign dude who won’t stop tinkering with his phone if any of them will accompany you, but they all say no, quite politely, and you’re left at square one. You go back to the office and tell the man your story. You ask if there’s a waiver or anything you can sign or do. You thank him profusely, holding your hands to your heart, when he passes you a key and a towel and says, “Just don’t get me in trouble, ok?”

It takes you one trip back to the office to ask for directions before you actually find the door that leads you out to the private tub just above the rocky point and below a sea of stars and the spinning flash of one of the country’s tallest lighthouses. All at once it is both so dark and so bright. You soak, naked in the starlight, listening to the spray of water shoot out over rocks, tracing constellations and giggling to yourself. You say some things out loud–it’s hard not to–like yes! Yes! And thank you. You bring your hands to your chest, you bow, you sing an Om, and then you walk back to your bed, where the hostel-worker’s music keeps a pillow over your ears for hours and hours and you mostly don’t mind. You wake at dawn, leaving the lighthouse as the sun stretches up over the bay, turning the sky from pink to blue, waking up the shorebirds who fly over your head, singing. It is a brand new day.

photo(48)

Roadtrip #1 – Navy SEALS, Ice Cream & Auntying

by Jenine Durland

There are moments in life when your dreams become your reality and you’re left standing on a sand dune staring down at a bunch of dudes running an obstacle course in camou pants and t-shirts, and all you can think is, they look so young.

One thing you realize about dreams is that they aren’t always–or ever–a linear thing. Instead they meander and twist and come full circle with tangential points you didn’t even know you’d made. Like yes, when you were a teenager, you wanted to be a Navy SEAL. It was around the time that GI Jane came out, and Demi Moore helped dissuade you–temporarily–from your fixation with Top Gun long enough to plant a seed. Senior year of high school you’d stand in your kitchen clutching an early-acceptance, full-ride scholarship to a liberal arts college in one hand and an embossed, gold-leaf letter of nomination to the United States Air Force Academy from Senator Diane Feinstein in the other, and you’d cry.

You’d choose hippie college, eventually, becoming a creative writing major, befriending some amazing people, and twelve years later you’d use the port-o-potty on the SEAL’s obstacle course with one of those amazing people, also a poet, and now a Marine Corps officer, high-ranking enough to get saluted as she drives you and her dog onto the special warfare base here on Coronado.

You’re totally surprised by how chill it is. Your friend’s fluffy part-Chow, part-Golden Retriever is panting and rolling around in the sand. The only sounds are the waves of the Pacific crashing behind you. It’s a Saturday and apparently the SEALS are between sessions. You watch the two groups of guys who’ve come out to train, divided by t-shirt color–brown shirts and white shirts, your friend tells you, the browns being the ones who’ve made it through hell week, the whites are newbies– as they swing through monkey bars and climb up cargo nets and do some other circus-like stunts that involve ropes and spinning logs and jumping. You have a strong urge to try vaulting over the logs in the last section, the ones your bestie is saying she’s been having trouble with, but you’re not wearing camou, which apparently is the only thing stopping you from trying.

You can’t help but feel like a bad ass, even in civilian shorts and a tank top. You are probably strutting, you think, for once really proud of your jacked quads, the muscles like a rite of passage. It’s silly, you know. But real. You and your friend run half the length of the beach as it arcs away from the base. This is her warmup. You are summoning your strength. Her dog is so far behind he becomes just a fluffy speck. Your stomach fat is itching from all its jiggling after weeks without really exercising and you’re just so fricking smiley.

When you get back to the picnic table on top of the dunes, there’s a man with three young children pointing to each of the stations, explaining the progression of obstacles in much the same way your friend did. The kids are in bathing suits–the one girl, probably twelve, has a panther print bikini bottom and a push-up top on–and they are very serious, looking down on the rather average setting before them. It’s a landscape, you realize, that comes alive through story, through the tales of individuals whose experiences you can only guess at.

You finish the afternoon at the brewery over burgers and beer and an apple crisp loaded so tall with ice cream that the neighboring table actually stops their conversation long enough to admire the work of art. You drove seven hundred and eighteen miles to spend these last 32 hours with your friend and as you sit and sip beer and spoon whipped cream into your mouth, you start to feel overwhelmingly full. You slip the dog a small chunk of ground beef and smile as your friend says, “Your Auntie is spoiling you.” There’s something about that word that brings everything up. This, you think, finishing the last of your beer, is the fullness of family.

 

The jungle house

Unavailable Woman

By Catherine Siskron

Note from the Editor: As an integral and steadfast part of the Break-up Blog, I asked my godmother to write the first post of the new blog on the subject of being single in your sixties. Here are her words. Thank you for sharing, Catherine.

Accompanying you for the past forty days of your blog has been a chance to revisit my younger self while remaining mostly anchored in the present. How much of my own journey can I share with you and the community of your friends? You were wondering, what it is like to be single in my sixties? Actually, except for a five-year marriage (from 20 to 25) and my sojourn as your grandfather’s consort for seven years, much of my life I lived alone, in uncommitted relationships.

So before I go on, I want to tell you how much I admire your courage, your ability to communicate so many facets of yourself, your way with words that makes everything you write accessible to the heart, mind and gut…

I feel a bit melancholy. I am not used to being open, especially in writing, beyond my journal or an occasional missive to a close friend.

I wrote a draft for this entry in a blank journal I must’ve picked up in the late 80’s and only started using last month. Every page has a quote from a woman in the arts. Today’s quote is from Margaret Atwood, “The Eskimo have fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them: there ought to be as many for love…”

Perhaps we can add “healing” as a love word since it’s a lifelong project to learn more about ourselves and others and the world we occupy. It’s about staying reasonably sane in the chaos we call life.

Back to the title of this entry, “Unavailable Woman.” Like you—actually much more than you and for much longer periods of time— I thought I made myself “available” to men. I sacrificed my own wants and needs, my own bigger, wilder self to second guess men’s needs, acquiesce to their demands, help them heal, in other words to love them into compliance.  I worked on whatever man whose potential seemed irresistible to me at the moment, to prop him up so he would someday be strong enough to fulfill my dream of being held, loved, desired, emotionally and sexually fulfilled… Not a particularly kinky fantasy, and as I read your blog, perhaps still a well-trod path to happiness that does not materialize, but nonetheless, a fantasy.

I imagined myself to be an openhearted woman who loved my men unconditionally. It seemed only fair that I would expect the same in return and this expectation was the hidden, unstated, un-negotiated price that I attached to my love.  At the time I did not realize that the very fact that I could not negotiate my wants and needs, that it felt too risky to speak my truth, made my love a heavy burden.

Looking back I can see that I was an emotionally unavailable woman who chose emotionally stunted men and the pay off was that being in such a relationship I could be the “good” one—the man was so deficient in the qualities I claimed I wanted that I did not need to examine my own deficiencies.

So what is it like to be twice your age, to be single in my 60’s? Compared to my teens, twenties, thirties, forties, it’s absolutely blissful.  I started consciously working toward healing myself in my late forties. A bit late in life, I would say. Yet the change from inner drama to a much greater sense of peace, of feeling that I have choices as to how to respond even in the heat of the moment to an event in my life, and that even if I screw up, there is usually a way to remedy the problem, is a freedom that made the years of therapy well worth the hard work.

Living alone can be lonely, but not as lonely as being in a relationship where the fire has turned to ashes. And that can happen at any age.  Being alone means being free to pursue my life unfettered. The yearning for love, for passion, for companionship is still there. But it’s a yearning, not a need. I watch married couples and can’t think of any that I would want to change places with. There are trade offs, either way. I am less hopeful than I was four years ago, when I accepted an invitation to the jungle in Yucatan to see if  A*** and I had the potential for a marriage. We didn’t. And it wasn’t the jungle that stopped me. In fact, the jungle was a big part of the attraction.

The jungle house
The jungle house

I wish we had 52 names for love. Because so many different kinds of love fill my life. The love for you, my spiritual child, whom I have known since birth and who has grown into such an amazing woman. For my family and friends, for strangers in distress, for animals and plants, for the sun and the moon, for this life, that has been so hard and so rich in experience. As I age, more and more love spirals from my heart, and the spiral grows to envelope all of existence, the entire universe with its quirks and quarks. And at the center of that universe, I find the dot that I recognize as myself, and I love myself with my own quirks and quarks, my own strivings to grow and heal, my failures and achievements.